Violence – a major cause of mortality and disability

Violence – a major cause of mortality and disability
Alka Pande

Ten years back a Lucknow-based voluntary organisation saved a girl victim of incest as she was being sexually abused by her father for years. The girl was eleven years old at that time. She is 21 today and she is no more a victim of sexual violence. But, even today she is facing mental violence as the case carries on in the court. The girl is suffering from an injury caused to her first due to sexual abuse and then due to mental violence.

Over 600 million people all across the globe are living today with some kind of disability or injury, 40 percent of which are caused due to violence of some or the other kind. These disabilities remain 20 times more the number caused by all the crippling diseases combined together.

The situation is worse for women and children as the statistics confirm that one of every fourth woman and one of every fiftieth child experiences sexual violence and this violence is either from their intimate partner or from a close family member/relative.

According to WHO Global Burden of Disease data, in 2002, over 700,000 children under the age of 15 were killed by some or the other injury. There is a high morbidity associated with childhood injuries -- for each injured child, who dies there are several thousand children who live on with varying degrees of disabilities. A large proportion of these injuries (caused due to falls, burns, drowning) occur either in the safe surroundings of home or at the leisure environments. However, most of such cases are ignored or go unreported or just dismissed as accidents.

"Violence and injuries account for more than 5 million deaths every year. The consequent disabilities are 20 times higher, which make it 100 million per year and unfortunately 40 percent victim of which, are children," commented Dr Bhasker Banerji, an orthopaedic surgeon and director of "Viklang Kendra" (centre for the disabled), in Allahabad.

The Viklang Kendra is at present working as teaching and training centre in rehabilitation, paramedical, medical and allied branches, besides functioning as a centre for care of children suffering from cerebral palsy or autism. The Kendra is also a centre for orthopaedic surgeries, including joint replacement, spinal surgeries and plastic surgeries. The efforts are on to set up a trauma and regional spinal centre to cater to the population of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Dr Banerji was making a presentation on Disability: Protection and Prevention at UP Press Club in Lucknow. The presentation was organised by the UNICEF and Media Nest under their joint initiative "Media for Children."

One in every 50 children experiences sexual abuse by a close relative or family member. "Still when we are talking about violence, we do not raise cases of disability and mortality due to violence, which can come in different forms and at different shades, for example – the violence faced by children of sex workers, or cases of children living in turbulent/ unrest areas or children who become witness in criminal cases," had opined Tulika Srivastav, a noted lawyer and a social activist.

Citing the anomalies, injustice and mental violence which the children face during court cases, Tulika gave instance of a case in which 200 lawyers signed the "vakalatnama" (undersigned pledge to represent their client) whereas the child who was the witness of the prosecution, could get just one lawyer.

Both the legal practitioner Tulika Srivastav and the medical practitioner Bhasker Banerji advocated that it's high time we start paying attention to mortality and disability to children and women, who become victim to some or the other kind of violence.

Help a victim of violence and save your taxes:
Adopt a child with disability: Rs 20,000 per year.
Donate for education of ten spastic/autistic children: Rs 120,000 per year.
Donate for medical treatment of ten children with disabilities: Rs 10,000 per month.
Donate for an appliance for a child with disability: Rs 1,900 per appliance.
Pay for corrective surgery of one child with disability: Rs 12,000

Alka Pande
(The author is a senior journalist)